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on the broadcast tonight, fighting words. just as the president is hosting the world at the big u.n. gathering in new york, rick perry arrives in town from texas and takes a big swing. marching orders. a change for a big part of american life. the end of don't ask don't tell and a new era for the u.s. military. sky high. just when you thought the airlines couldn't squeeze another dime out of the flying public, they found another way. would you believe a $90 free ticket? are you wasting money on natural foods? new questions tonight about just what natural means. and "making a difference." a family we profiled on this broadcast, among the faces of poverty in the u.s. and then the hero who stepped up after seeing their story.
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"nightly news" begins now. captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening, representatives from around the world are here in new york tonight, part of a massive u.n. gathering that's clogged the streets and left the air thick with tension. there's real concern about some of the big explosive issues like the middle east, and a showdown coming later this week. then today something of a bombshell, rick perry, governor of texas, gop candidate for president came to new york and accused president obama of appeasement of the palestinian cause against israel. it added to a troubling time for the president, who is after all, playing host at this gathering. our chief white house correspondent chuck todd in new york covering the president, with us in the studio this evening. chuck, good evening. >> good evening, brian.
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you know, the president now coming up to new york thought he might get a respite from the current domestic political climate. he's finding out all those political fires he's been struggling to put out have followed him here. president obama hoped his first full day in new york for the opening of the united nations general assembly would be a foreign policy victory lap as a new libya is welcomed into the family of nations. >> after four decades of darkness, they can walk the streets free from a tyrant. >> reporter: but presidential politics intervened. republican presidential front runner rick perry showed up in new york and used a pro-israel rally to attack the president. >> it's time to change our policy of appeasement toward the palestinians to strengthen our ties with the nation of israel. >> reporter: perry's comments flew in the face of the white house campaign behind the scenes to thwart palestinian efforts this week to earn statehood through a u.n. vote. >> we would veto any actions in the security council. >> reporter: but perry is the least of the president's political problems right now. white house aids are defending the president's hardline stance
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on reducing the deficit, openly acknowledging he's abandoning the grand bargain approach he took with speaker boehner during the debt ceiling crisis. communications director dan pfeiffer bluntly told the new york times, we were in a position of legislative compromise by necessity. that phase is behind us. but what's really kept the west wing busy this week is a damaging narrative in a new book "confidence men" by journalist ron suskind. an unflattering picture of the entire obama team in its first two years. the white house has questioned several anecdotes, including one in which suskind quotes larry summers as telling peter orszag, you know, peter, we're alone. there's no adult in charge. clinton would never have made these mistakes. analysts say there's a larger reason why the white house is working this hard to discredit this narrative. >> once there tends to be a cartoon of a president, especially a president where the nation's got awfully big problems and it's an election
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year, that tends to take hold and is very hard to get rid of. >> reporter: the white house has drawn blood even for sus does kind on the "today" show to admit larry summers, in the quote we had in our peace, that summers had denied it, but then said he still meant the meaning of the quote that he used. >> for them right now, it's all about timing. chuck todd covering the traveling president, traveling white house here in new york. another flurry of activity here in new york, afghanistan's president made an early and tearful departure from the u.n. meeting. left here to go back home to afghanistan after word came of a big setback there. a suicide bomber packed explosives in his turban. killed the man leading the effort to negotiate peace with the taliban. a former afghan president who had been appointed by karzai to find a political solution of some sort to this violence. this was just the latest high
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profile assassination in afghanistan. it comes as karzai was meeting with president obama before the start of the u.n. general assembly. and as the u.s. gets ready to get out of afghanistan, there is a big change to report tonight for the american military. the policy known as don't ask don't tell is now officially history. jim miklaszewski our pentagon correspondent has the story from there this evening. jim, good evening. >> good evening, brian. this repeal of don't ask don't tell, which prohibited gays from openly serving in the u.s. military is nothing short of historic. it's estimated that as many as 65,000 gays and lesbians actively serve in the u.s. military, including on the battlefields of iraq and afghanistan. but today, for the first time ever, they no longer have to live a lie. at the pentagon, joint chiefs chairman mike mullen said for him, repeal of don't ask don't tell is all about integrity. >> it's fundamentally against everything we stand for as an institution, to force people to
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lie about who they are just to wear a uniform. >> reporter: in 1993, the new president bill clinton, wanted to lift the ban against gays in the military all together. but faced with stiff opposition from both congress and the pentagon, he was forced to accept don't ask don't tell. on capitol hill today, lawmakers say the repeal marks an end to 18 years of official discrimination and the beginning of a new era. >> when gay and lesbian service members can serve their country openly, without constant fear of being kicked out of the military. >> and sarah pezette was free to tell the whole world the truth. >> i'm 31 years old, i'm a woman, i'm a united states marine, and i'm a lesbian. >> reporter: were you living a lie? >> absolutely. all of us. all of us were living a lie. >> reporter: but air force staff sergeant jonathan mills was among many who fought back. he's been executive editor of an
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online magazine, working anonymously behind the scenes for repeal of don't ask don't tell. >> to be able to see something that has been so wrong. a policy that's ruined so many lives be overturned, i feel very proud of this. i feel it is a moral accomplishment in our country. >> reporter: at the stroke of midnight, the moment don't ask don't tell was officially dead, navy lieutenant gary ross openly married his partner in vermont. ironically, under federal law, the military still cannot recognize the marriage. in fact, same sex partners will still be denied some benefits, like medical care and military housing. so the fight goes on. but brian, this headline in the latest "marine corps times" says it all, we're gay, get over it. >> jim miklaszewski on this big day at the pentagon. jim, thank you for that. now, to a drama playing out in the south tonight, in georgia. a 42-year-old man on death row lost what might have been his last chance to block his
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execution now scheduled for tomorrow. he was convicted of the 1989 murder of a police officer, but as nbc's thanh truong reports tonight, this is a celebrated case because a lot of people have real doubts about his guilt. >> reporter: in atlanta, and around the world, calls for clemency for georgia death row inmate troy davis, with one last chance to appeal his execution. >> we're concerned about the possibility of executing an innocent man. >> reporter: former president jimmy carter and pope benedict are among one million who petitioned the states pardons and parole board. even advocates say there's too much doubt to execute. >> it's a textbook example of the sort of case in which the death penalty should not be applied. >> reporter: davis was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1989 murder of savannah police officer mark macphail, shot in the face and chest while helping a homeless man.
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seven of the nine witnesses recanted their statement that davis was the shooter. several claiming police coercion. one of those witness said, "i was real young, i was scared, i told them what they wanted to hear." davis' defense also points to a lack of evidence. the murder weapon never found. three jurors who voted to convict now say they would vote differently. davis' many supporters have tried everything they could to convince the board that given all the questions in the case, the execution must be halted. but this morning, the board denied davis clemency. his family and supporters were devastated. >> when there's doubt, you can't make mistakes, have you to be sure. >> this is an affront to human rights. >> reporter: but the officer's loved ones call it justice. >> not just my father was taken, but the future that he -- that we would have had together was taken from us. and the future that he would have had with his family was taken. >> reporter: for 22 years, davis has maintained his innocence. but now with his legal options exhausted and no possible
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intervention from the governor, he's scheduled to be executed in a matter of hours. thanh truong, nbc news, atlanta. we learned today the dry weather in texas, the wildfires there have now officially cost that state billions of dollars. more than $5 billion in farm losses, $200 million agriculture losses, tied directly to wildfires, including lost timber, grazing land and livestock. this past weekend texas did get some rain for the first time in a long time in midland, a little more than 1.5 inches over three days. that was more than they've had in the past year. but the truth is, they would need as much as 24 inches of rain in one month to catch up. and the folks at noaa, the branch of the federal government in charge of weather forecasting and tracking came out with their final report on the joplin tornado and the lessons learned. 162 people died in that storm. among the findings here, people delayed taking shelter because
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of previous false alarms and because they wanted to know more. and then when it came, the feds now admit the warning should have been worded differently. it should have been more urgent and, perhaps, in plain english. dr. greg forbes, the severe weather specialist at the weather channel says warnings aside, there needs to be renewed emphasis on fortified tornado shelters in these areas. we have some new math to share with you tonight on a subject that infuriates everybody forced to travel by air. the fees in addition to ticket prices, in some cases that the airlines are even charging you for a free ticket booked with frequent flyer miles. our report tonight from nbc's tom costello. >> reporter: if you feel like you're getting nickelled and dimed every time you fly, it turns out it's a lot more than pocket change. >> blankets, pillows, everything. it's become an a la carte system
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that makes it so hard to budget. >> reporter: it's been adding up for years. fees for buying your ticket over the phone rather than online, fees for extra leg room, fees for aisle seats, not to mention a boxed lunch. >> the reasonability of the fees has gone through the roof. >> reporter: usa today has surveyed the airlines and crunched the numbers. that first checked bag can cost you as much as $43. but an overweight international bag can run you up to $400 on continental and united, $450 on american. changing a ticket can now cost you $250 depending on the carrier. even booking frequent flyer award travel can cost you up to $90. spirit airlines charges 30 to 40 dollars for carry-on bags. >> travelers are feeling a huge level of rage. they're wary, angry, strained in their personal lives, and certainly in their finances. >> reporter: after losing $65 billion over the last ten years, the airlines insist those extra fees are the only way they can turn a profit. >> airlines need to be profitable.
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without being sustainably profitable they can't provide jobs, they can't provide service to the destinations the customers want to fly to. >> reporter: one way to avoid paying more is to fly more. airlines are waiving excess fees for the most frequent travelers. i'm flying today on business and my bag is flying free. still, to a lot of passengers, it feels like gouging. >> quite frankly you get nickelled and dimed to death. >> reporter: unfortunately, the reality is, if you plan to fly, there's no escaping the squeeze. tom costello, nbc news, washington. when we continue here tonight, from breakfast cereals to cooking oil, the label promises it's all natural. what does natural mean, and is it really worth paying for in all cases? and later, you may remember we profiled a florida family caught in a downward financial spiral. miles away, another family was watching and they decided to step up and make a difference.
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we're back now tonight with a question that may have occurred to anybody that does the shopping. why do so many labels from cooking oil to cereal promise all natural ingredients? and what does natural mean anyway? we asked lee cowan to see what it means, if anything. and whether paying for natural is worth the money. >> reporter: for those of us struggling to stay healthy, we know it takes just as much exercise as it does reading. >> you have to look for the sticker and read the ingredients. >> reporter: while those all natural labels probably make us feel better, even if they make our wallets feel worse. experts say it isn't that label we should be worried about, it's the fine print. >> we have to be savvy and do some investigation on our own. >> reporter: because all natural can mean just about anything. >> it is really a jungle out there. >> reporter: the fda doesn't offer any clear definitions either. >> in some cases, you need a panel of rabbis to determine whether it's natural or not
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natural. >> reporter: the fda says the all natural phrase is accurate as long as there's no added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances. but what about something like high fructose corn syrup, something that's commonly referred to as a natural sweetener? the sugar companies would say it's not. in fact, they've taken it to court. corn syrup companies disagree. still, overall there have been a host of lawsuits that have claimed that the use of the all natural phrase is deceiving customers into paying more for something that really isn't there. >> it's going to take a lot of private lawsuits, or the government saying, hey, enough is enough. here's the definition, stick with it or we're going to get your products off the market. >> reporter: but in the last few years there's just been more and more, the number of new all natural products on store shelves has jumped nearly 70% since 2005. >> you have to try to understand what they're not saying as much as what they are saying. >> reporter: what it all means
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for shoppers, you better eat your carrots and bring your reading glasses. and maybe your high school chemistry books too. lee cowan, nbc news, los angeles. one more thing on the subject of food, there's a new fast food staple coming our way. after years of fighting with the old ones, heinz is out with a new vessel for fast food ketchup. it's shaped differently, opens differently, and contains three times the amount of product in the new packets. they're already being used at some dairy queens. wendy's gets them later this year. no comment yet from the really big players, mcdonald's and burger king. up next here tonight, a legendary entertainer in trouble on the web for something he said on the radio.
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tony bennett was the toast of new york this past weekend, a gala 85th birthday bash.
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a celebration of his new album of duets. instead he's under fire for something he said about 9/11. he talked about fighting the nazis in europe in world war ii. he says what he witnessed in france and germany in war made him a pacifist later in life. he said the united states caused the 9/11 attacks because of our actions in the persian gulf. george w. bush made a huge admission to him at the kennedy center in 2005. >> he told me personally that night, he said, i think i made a mistake. >> really? >> he was talking about the war in iraq. a spokesman for former president george w. bush tells nbc news tonight "this account is flatly wrong." he goes on to say, president bush never said that to tony bennett or anyone else. tony bennett's remarks also started, as you might imagine, a torrent of comments on the web
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today. you can see the interview tonight in its entirety on our website. when we come back here tonight, after seeing our story, one very generous family sacrifices to help another family miles away.
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and finally tonight, our "making a difference" report is about a family we profiled here on this broadcast because they are among the faces of poverty in the united states. the 15% of our fellow citizens living in poverty. it's at a 52-year high. what you're about to see is what happened when another family saw the report we aired. our follow-up tonight from nbc's chris jansing. >> reporter: their story was as familiar as it is heartbreaking, angel and anairis hidalgo both lost their jobs, their florida home in foreclosure, their teenagers worried about their future. when john vann's family watched that story those 1,300 miles away in texas, it hit surprisingly close to home.
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dessi came to america from bulgaria. >> it's difficult when you are an immigrant, you come and build everything from the get go. >> reporter: aaron was once unemployed. >> just the inner emptiness and the yearning to want to do something. >> reporter: and john saw in gavi his own three daughters. >> the final shot of little gavi and the stress she was seeing and the tears she expressed caused us as a family to stop and pause and talk about it. >> reporter: john, a successful businessman, e-mailed his girls and as a family, decided they had to help. it's worth noting that the vann's at first didn't want to do this interview, they weren't in it for publicity. they do want to send a message that any american who's doing okay right now can help another american who's going through a tough time. >> reporter: the hidalgo's had been given an unexpected offer. they believe that they can help you save your house. >> oh, my god.
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>> reporter: for three years, angelo has gone without christmas or birthday presents, gavi tried to get a job, but at 15 was too young. now, new hope. i hope those are tears of happiness, anairis? >> of course it is. >> reporter: turns out, john's company has an office near the hidalgo's, and one of his employees drives by their neighborhood every day. >> we'd like to present you with an initial check for your family -- >> reporter: a commitment to provide $2,000 a month for two years, and already vann's contacts have produced a promising lead for a job for angel. >> you fall into a hole and somebody gives you a helping hand and tries to pull you up. tremendous. >> reporter: a message from one american family to another, you're not alone. chris jansing, nbc news, plano, texas. >> how about that? that's our broadcast for this tuesday night. thank you for being here with us. i'm brian williams, we hope to see you right back here tomorrow evening. good night.
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-- captions by vitac -- good evening, everyone. i'm jessica aguirre. >> and i'm raj mathai. a family that was pushed to the limit. they did everything the right way but ended up with the wrong result ts. michelle le's family praised tonight. jodi hernandez is joining us. >> reporter: a lot

NBC Nightly News
NBC September 20, 2011 5:30pm-6:00pm PDT

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TOPIC FREQUENCY New York 11, Us 9, Texas 6, Davis 6, U.n. 5, Afghanistan 5, Pentagon 4, U.s. 4, Rick Perry 3, Tony Bennett 3, Nbc News 3, John 3, Chuck Todd 2, George W. Bush 2, Tom Costello 2, Fda 2, Nbc 2, Perry 2, United States 2, Lee Cowan 2
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